16 March 2010

Life as a 3 Act ... Redux

I'm sure this is not news to many, but most plays and movies have a 3-act structure with your beginning (the setup), middle (plot development and conflict), and end (the denouement or pay-off). Back in the day when I was doing wholesale lending and consumer mortgages, one of my clients who was a producer on Cosby (and is now an SVP at Paramount Pictures) gave me one of my first books on writing (by Lajos Egri). I learned bunches from this read, and was convinced after seeing her house (and her neighborhood) that the entertainment industry was for me.

Fast Forward some 15 years after receiving the Egri book from her, I returned it to her (along with what I thought was a witty missive) when I was on the lot for a few months doing a consulting gig for Paramount's legal group. She had no idea who I was. Plus, I think she even had her assistant call security which is sort of like turning out the dogs on a peddler of magical potions. All this after I seriously saved her bacon (financially speaking, of course; it's not like she was hanging gutted swine on her Beverly Hills estate in the smokehouse out back of her manse) because she had no "real" means of income to verify. I was able to finesse her loan through committee, in spite of some very skeptical underwriters.

If life is a 3-act, then I'm certainly at the end of my 2nd act (and it has not gone swimmingly well to be honest). In all solid yarns, the 1st act has a good initial hook to keep 'em interested. I like to think that mine was along those lines (don't we all think that our early years are interesting?). I showed some real promise once upon a time, and thought the world would be mine for the asking/taking/grabbing of the brass ring ... now however it looks more like the world is mine for the settling/begging/backing into. No worries though, God is good, and I know that hard work is rewarded.

There are some amazing second acts out there for our example. (I suppose the metaphor breaks down here a bit, but let's press on shall we?) Let's look at a quick few:
  • Industrialist Henry Ford -- 20 years after Ford left home to become a machinist apprentice (and later an engineer for Edison), Henry founded his first auto company. He and Edison would become very good friends, and I have seen the jar which held Edison's last breath, that Ford personally requested, which is housed at the Ford Museum in Dearborn, MI.
  • Entrepreneur Colonel Sanders -- Started selling franchises at age 65 with $105 from his first Social Security check to fund his endeavors. He would soon become a millionaire after selling the parent corporation along with US rights (he retained the Canadian rights for himself). I have personally enjoyed way too much of his finger-lickin' poulet oeuvre -- trust me, it's good.
  • Actor Steve Bescemi -- Former NY firefighter.
  • Writer John Grisham -- Former attorney.
  • Entrepreneur Steve Jobs -- College drop-out, fired in disgrace from Apple, only to return to lead Apple and Pixar to their current design, creative and financial apogee.
  • Actor Dennis Farina -- Former Chicago police officer.
  • Governors Ventura and Schwarzenegger -- Former meat head steroid body builder/ wrestler with crazy accents. (Good gawd how did they get elected? Oh, wait, I voted for one of these guys.)
  • Writer J.K. Rowling -- Former researcher teacher (and on welfare).
  • Writer Tom Clancy -- Former insurance agent.
And F. Scott Fitzgerald once famously said that there are no second acts. Ha! Well, he actually said that there are no American second acts. But, the joke of that is that America itself is a second act. We started off as a beach head of sorts for George III's efforts to replenish his dwindling coffers. Then he went too far and ticked off the right sorts of Founders (Henry, Jefferson, Washington, Adams, et.al.) who could stand up to a monarch with myopic skills of statecraft. I suppose becoming the most prosperous and natural resource blessed country in the history of the planet qualifies as the paragon of all second acts.
If America, and Steve Bescemi, and J.K. Rowling can do it, perhaps we all have a second act in us?

14 comments:

Julie@beingRUBY said...

Hi Jg
I wonder just where I am in the acts of life.. I guess I'd have to say towards the end of the 2nd act. It be nice to think I could make some dramatic change at this point in the script...If I were a book I think readers would have given up quite a few chapters ago...

But..lucky for me.. you have reminded me that all is not lost... that is quite an interesting list of second acts going on there... maybe I can reinvent myself yet...after all if Colonel Sanders can..

Have a great week and thanks for stopping by.. x

Dumbwit Tellher said...

If Julie is on the end of her second act then that makes me on my third..eek. I have to say, this post as was humorous (of course) but it was 'inspiring'. If I keep hanging around you, I'm hoping you will rub-off on me. My mother always told me it's "it's the company you keep". I keep praying that the good is coming, and I know patience is a virtue. I worry my shelf-life is reaching it's expiration date.

Happy St. Patrick's Day J Gregg. I'm convinced your ship is landing and landing soon.

Toad said...

Please, sir may I have another, and perhaps another chance after that too?

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Julie -- love that you're not giving up on yourself (no matter that readers of our lives might have given up on us!) ... reinvention is such a GREAT thing.

DT -- "shelf life" ... ha! great comments (as always), and you keep the best of company as is evident by hundreds of comments on your recent blog posts (green with envy is not a good color for me, but on St. Patrick's day, i suppose it's alright). And, 2nd act is more likely! Col Sanders was on his 3rd act... ;)

Toad -- Amen, brother! I'm so in that camp of needing another helping ...

lisa golightly said...

J.G. I am hanging on to the scrappiest of all examples, Col Sanders at 65 with 105 in his pocket. This is the kind of hope I'm talking about here ! I SO needed this ... Thank you !

Green right there with ya,
Ms. Gorightry

Emm said...

Wow, this is a really thought provoking post. At first I was thinking that I'm not really in my second act, I am sort of in my first act. I just wasn't happy in South Africa and I sometimes see that I am just starting out now and will make a big change (like career) in the next five years or so.

Think I'm going to settle down with a cup of tea and think about all of this. Fab post!

Shelley said...

I retired early a couple of years ago and am looking for my next 'career' - it may or may not involve money, it just has to absorb me. I definitely bloomed in my 30s and became more adventurous in my 40s. Now I'm waiting to see what happens in my 50s. Still, I plan to live to be 91 (like Grandmother). Don't forget Grandma Moses!

sinnlighet said...

yes yes yes, like like like your blog!

agneta, a swedish one ;)

lisa golightly said...

I stumbled upon this quote today and thought of this post ... "It's never too late to be who you might have been" - George Eliot

Kathy said...

Dear FatS....Thank you for stopping by my spot..especially since I now have YOURS! Excellent blog J.G.....will pass it along to all my friends. K

Sandy K. said...

As usual, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your missive. Having been delinquent from the blogosphere for a while, trying to sort through Act I so I can get on with Act II, your timing is impecable. As I tell my students, your life is interesting, your work is interesting, and you must never lose sight of yourself in the mess of life. Sounds heady:). Great list of those who have thought past those first Acts. And had fun doing it!

Barbara said...

Another interesting act II (and perhaps the strangest): Anne Perry, successsful writer of Victorian murder mystery novels, and a convicted murderer.

If we don't get this vote straight tomorrow, we may well be on our last act.

Jg. for FatScribe said...

Lisa -- yes, that $105 in the pocket is remarkably apropos for the ole col. And, thanks for the follow-up quote you suggested. Great one!

Emm -- let me know what you discover after your cuppa. glad you found this piece thought-provoking!

Shelly -- Grandma Moses! Who could forget a youthful ingenue in their 80's! Good reminder...

Sinnlightet -- thanks for visiting! I enjoyed visiting your blog as well!!

Kathy -- really enjoyed your blog as well. I spent 4 almost 5 years in Virginia (Chesapeake and Va Beach) during grad school and loved my time in the Old Dominion!


SK -- Totally understandable. I'm at two breaks from the webisphere myself. Your students are lucky to have someone as wise as yourself.

Barbara -- whoa. that is an odd 2nd act, but somehow appropriate for her -- thanks for that bit of trivium!

Caleb S. Garcia said...

The joke is that America itself is a second act....ha, I love it!